Ice fishing has grown tremendously over the years, with new innovations and designs that allow anglers to fish more effectively, while also providing increased comfort and mobility.
One such invention is the portable fish hut -- or portable ice fishing house -- as it is also known. Gone are the days of cold feet and hands, blowing line, and short days on the hard stuff, due to the uncompromising elements of weather.
Fishing huts are made from a wide variety of materials, the most common being nylon, canvas, or poly cotton. Although each has their own merits, the most important aspects to consider are thickness, durability, breathability, and resistance to water and fire.
Try to choose a hut with the thickest material you can afford, as this will provide added protection from the elements, while also retaining warmth in the interior. Thin material does not offer an adequate barrier to the frigid environment, causing the inside temperature to drop, and necessitating an increase in heat in order to stay warm and comfortable. It goes without saying that a hut with a thin covering will also be less durable when out on the ice.
Choosing a hut that is breathable will enable built-up moisture to escape from the inside, allowing for a dryer and less humid environment to fish from. Water-resistant material is the only way to go for obvious reasons, as is having a hut made from a fire-retardant covering. This can be a lifesaver if your heater ever malfunctions, or is accidentally knocked over.
Also, try to choose a hut that is made from a dark-colored material. This will attract the warmth from the sun, transferring "free" heat directly through to the inside.
A prime concern for those interested in a hut is overall weight. The lighter the hut is, the easier it will be to carry or pull on the ice, causing less chance for fatigue and sore muscles.
One-man portables can peak at around 60 pounds, although trying to find one that falls between 25 pounds and 60 pounds would be your best bet. Keep in mind the quality and craftsmanship. Just because it is light doesn't necessarily mean it is a superior product.
Ceiling height is another concern, especially for anglers that are taller than average. Make sure that you have adequate headroom when sitting down inside the hut. If your noggin is rubbing on the roof, a different style or model will ensure comfort.
One last factor to consider is the amount of room that will be directly in front of you while sitting down. This area must be spacious enough to allow free movement of an ice fishing rod, especially during the process of jigging or when setting the hook.
Portable huts have been refined over the years, allowing an angler to completely set one up in mere seconds. Many on the market can be fully constructed in less than a minute, meaning more time to fish and less time fiddling with confusing parts and pieces. "Folding" type huts do just that -- fold over top of you. These are probably the easiest and fastest style of hut when it comes to set up time.
The other variety is the "tent" style, usually integrating aluminum or alloy poles that are hinged or snapped together. This style will take longer to put up, but is still a great product to buy as long as it isn't overly complicated or time-consuming. My advice would be to try each style out before buying, to see for yourself, which option works best for you.
Polar Sport and Frabill make a variety of high-quality huts in assorted sizes and configurations. This website offers a fine selection of huts.
There are two options when it comes to the seating layout in an ice hut -- you provide your own chair, or there is one directly built into the hut. Both options work fine, although the one drawback of using your own is you have one more item to carry out onto the ice. If the hut you are interested in has a built-in seat, make sure that it is strong, has some sort of padding, and will be comfortable for the amount of time that will be spent sitting on it.
An added feature of some huts on the market are Velcro flaps or roll-up covers on the inside of the window surface, which allow an angler to completely cover up the windows when sight fishing down the hole.
The majority of anglers use propane heaters in their huts for warmth. Although these trusty gizmos provide a comfortable environment to fish in, they also give off hazardous fumes that can be deadly if proper ventilation is not provided. This is where vents come into play. Many huts have this feature, which allow fumes to escape and fresh oxygen to take its place. It's important to keep in mind that if the hut you select doesn't have any air vents, you will have to keep the zippered door open slightly to offset the fumes.
An interesting refinement that many huts offer is folding down into compact sleds. This sled (or toboggan) is made of molded polyethylene, and allows an angler to carry out everything they need for a day of fishing (bait buckets, rods, auger) in a nice and easy towing package. I look for sleds that are durable and strong, towing ropes that are thick and easy on the hands, as well as bottom runners that will slide easily over ice and snow.
Portable huts are certainly the wave of the future when it comes to ice fishing. Anglers can now experience mobility, warmth and comfort -- three things that equal success when drilling through the hard water this winter. Have a good ice fishing season and happy shopping!
For a fine selection of portable ice fishing houses, click here.